What is Pulehu chicken Mo Bettah?

Pulehu chicken Mo Bettah is a Hawaiian style grilled chicken that is marinated in a sweet and tangy teriyaki sauce. It is a popular menu item at Mo Bettah, a Hawaiian restaurant chain that started in Oahu and has expanded to locations on the mainland United States.

Mo Bettah’s pulehu chicken is made with fresh, never frozen chicken that is marinated overnight in a secret recipe teriyaki sauce. The chicken is then grilled over an open flame to give it a smoky, charred flavor. It is basted with more teriyaki sauce as it cooks to keep it moist and infuse it with more flavor.

The end result is tender, juicy chicken coated in a sticky, slightly charred teriyaki glaze. It is served with steamed white rice and macaroni salad, which are typical Hawaiian plate lunch sides.

What Makes Mo Bettah’s Pulehu Chicken Special?

There are a few key factors that set Mo Bettah’s pulehu chicken apart from other teriyaki chicken dishes:

High Quality Fresh Chicken

Mo Bettah uses only fresh, never frozen chicken in their pulehu chicken. This ensures the chicken has a tender texture and retains moisture when cooking. Lower quality or previously frozen chicken can turn out rubbery and dry.

Housemade Teriyaki Marinade

The chicken is marinated for a full 24 hours in Mo Bettah’s signature teriyaki sauce. This allows the flavor to fully penetrate and tenderize the meat. The recipe is a closely guarded secret but contains soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and other spices.

Open Flame Grilling

Cooking the chicken over an open kiawe wood and mesquite flame is what gives it its signature char and smoky flavor. The fat and juices from the chicken drip onto the fire, imparting a delicious smokiness. This flavor cannot be replicated on a regular grill or in an oven.

Basting While Cooking

Mo Bettah frequently bastes the chicken with more teriyaki sauce as it cooks. Basting keeps the exterior moist and sticky while building up layers of flavor. The teriyaki glaze essentially caramelizes onto the surface of the chicken, creating a sweet and savory crust.

High Quality Ingredients

All the ingredients used in the marinade and cooking process are high quality and carefully sourced. For example, Mo Bettah only uses pure cane sugar rather than cheaper corn syrup in their teriyaki. This results in better flavor.

The History of Mo Bettah

Mo Bettah was founded in 2008 by Kimo Rosen, a Hawaiian native who missed the local grinds he grew up with after moving to the mainland United States. He opened the first location in Bountiful, Utah with the goal of bringing authentic Hawaiian flavors to the area.

The name Mo Bettah is Hawaiian Pidgin English meaning “more better.” This reflects the goal of serving food made with higher quality ingredients and more authentic cooking methods than typical Hawaiian restaurants.

The star of the menu was the pulehu chicken, which Rosen perfected over many years. It quickly developed a loyal following. Rosen began opening more locations along the Wasatch Front and then expanded to other states. There are now over 20 Mo Bettah restaurants.

Though it has grown significantly, Mo Bettah is still a family-owned business committed to quality. All locations use Rosen’s original recipes and cooking methods. The pulehu chicken is still the most popular menu item.

The Cooking Process

Mo Bettah’s famous pulehu chicken goes through a careful process to achieve its signature flavor and texture:


The chicken is first marinated for a full 24 hours in large bins and coolers. The marinade contains soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and other seasonings. Occasionally the marinade is tested and adjusted under the close supervision of company owner Kimo Rosen.

Trimming and Portioning

After marinating, the chicken is trimmed of any excess fat and portioned into pieces (typically legs, thighs, breasts, wings). Trimming helps the chicken cook evenly. The portions are ideal for picking up and eating by hand.


The chicken is then grilled over an open kiawe wood and mesquite flame. The natural fats and juices drip onto the hot coals, imparting a light smoke flavor. The pieces are turned frequently and basted with more teriyaki sauce.

Resting and Sauce Reduction

Once cooked, the chicken is allowed to rest briefly to let the juices redistribute. The leftover marinade and bastes are reduced into a thick glaze.

Saucing and Garnishing

The chicken portions are lightly sauced again before serving. They are garnished with green onion and sesame seeds.

The Ideal Pulehu Chicken

So what should you look for in perfectly cooked pulehu chicken from Mo Bettah? Here are the signs of good pulehu chicken:

Tender and Juicy Meat

Thanks to the marinade and cooking method, the chicken should be very tender and moist. If the meat is dry or chewy, it is overcooked.

Caramelized Exterior

When properly seared over the open flame, the exterior should have a slightly charred, sticky, and caramelized texture from the teriyaki glaze.

Pink Smoke Ring

Cutting into a piece of pulehu chicken should reveal a pink “smoke ring” about 1⁄4 inch deep. This pink color comes from the reaction between the chicken’s myoglobin and carbon monoxide from the smoking process.

Visible Grill Marks

Authentic pulehu chicken will show visible grill marks from cooking over an open flame. Marks that are too dark may indicate overcooking. Marks that are too light may indicate undercooking.

Rich Teriyaki Flavor

Each bite should be infused with sweet and salty teriyaki flavor, which coats the mouth. The chicken shouldn’t taste bland or plain.

Touch of Smokiness

A subtle smoky flavor and aroma from the grilling process should be detectable but not overpowering. Too much smoke taste means the chicken was charred.

Ordering Tips

Here are some tips for ordering the best pulehu chicken experience at Mo Bettah:

Choose Thighs and Legs

Opt for the juicy thighs and legs rather than dry breasts. The darker meat retains more moisture and flavor from the marinade.

Get It Extra Sauced

Request your chicken to be served “extra sauced” for additional glaze and flavor if you really love that sweet and sticky teriyaki taste.

Specify Grill Marks

Ask for pieces with “good grill marks” to ensure your chicken got quality time over the open flame.

Order a Full Chicken

Get an entire half or whole chicken to share family style for the best value and to sample every part.

Add Sides

Pair it with traditional Hawaiian sides like steamed white rice and mac salad for an authentic plate lunch experience.

Time Your Meal

Visit between meal rushes for the fastest and freshest cooking. Avoid peak hours when chicken may sit under heat lamps.

Replicating the Flavor at Home

While it’s hard to truly replicate Mo Bettah’s signature pulehu chicken outside the restaurant, you can achieve similar flavors at home:

Start with Quality Chicken

Choose fresh, boneless, skinless chicken thighs for the best texture and flavor. Avoid previously frozen chicken.

Make a Teriyaki Marinade

Mix soy sauce, brown sugar, minced garlic and ginger, sesame oil, and other spices for the marinade. Let it marinate 1-2 days.

Grill Over Charcoal or Wood

Get smoky flavor by grilling over hardwood lump charcoal or soaked wood chips. Turn and baste frequently.

Brush with Sauce

During the last few minutes of grilling, coat the chicken with a sticky sauce made from the leftover marinade and honey or brown sugar.

Get Charred

Let some edges blacken slightly for that charred teriyaki flavor. Avoid completely charring.

Rest and Slice

Let the chicken rest 5 minutes before slicing to retain juices. Slice into pieces and serve with rice.

The Nutritional Profile

While you shouldn’t visit Mo Bettah for health food, pulehu chicken is relatively nutritious compared to other Hawaiian plate lunch and barbecue options. Here is its approximate nutritional profile:

Calories and Macronutrients

A serving of Mo Bettah pulehu chicken (about 6oz) contains approximately:

  • Calories: 330
  • Fat: 13g
  • Carbs: 13g
  • Protein: 43g

So it is high in protein, relatively low in carbs, and has a moderate amount of fat for a grilled meat.

Vitamins and Minerals

Pulehu chicken provides:

  • Niacin – 18% DV
  • Vitamin B6 – 15% DV
  • Phosphorus – 15% DV
  • Zinc – 6% DV
  • Iron – 6% DV

These percentages are for a single serving compared to the recommended daily intake values.

Potential Drawbacks

The high sodium teriyaki marinade means one serving may contain over 1000mg of sodium, 44% of the daily recommended limit. The charring may also create small amounts of potentially carcinogenic compounds.

Alternatives on the Mo Bettah Menu

While the pulehu chicken is the signature dish, Mo Bettah offers other Hawaiian favorites:

Kalua Pig Plate

Smoked pulled pork with the same sweet and savory flavors as pulehu chicken. More tender and fatty.

Lau Lau Plate

Pork wrapped and steamed in taro leaves with butterfish for authentic Hawaiian flavor.

Loco Moco

A burger patty and over easy egg served over rice – a Hawaiian classic! Add gravy for extra richness.

Spam Musubi

Grilled Spam over rice wrapped in seaweed – an island grab-and-go snack.

Haupia Cake

Sweet coconut milk custard cake for dessert. Much lighter than typical cakes.

Is Mo Bettah’s Pulehu Chicken Worth the Hype?

Mo Bettah has developed an almost cult-like following for its signature pulehu chicken. Fans rave about the tender meat, sweet and tangy teriyaki flavor, and charred crust. It’s a staple Hawaiian plate lunch menu item.

But is it worth the hype and worthy of its popularity? Here are the pros and cons:


  • High quality chicken and ingredients
  • Unique marinade flavor
  • Juicy and tender meat
  • Char flavor from grilling
  • Relatively healthy
  • Traditional Hawaiian cooking method


  • High sodium content
  • Can be greasy
  • Long waits at busy locations
  • Price – not particularly cheap

Overall, Mo Bettah’s pulehu chicken stands out from other Hawaiian chicken plates you may find at other restaurants. The care put into its preparation and high-quality ingredients do seem to make a difference you can taste. For the true Hawaiian plate lunch experience in an easy casual setting, Mo Bettah is likely worth checking out if you are in Utah or nearby states.

Frequently Asked Questions

What parts of the chicken are used in Mo Bettah’s pulehu chicken?

Mo Bettah uses bone-in chicken thighs and legs for the pulehu chicken, as these dark meat parts are more flavorful and juicy. Breast meat tends to become dry with this cooking method.

How long is the pulehu chicken marinated?

The chicken marinates for a full 24 hours before cooking. This allows the teriyaki sauce to really penetrate and tenderize the meat.

Can I make reservations at Mo Bettah?

Mo Bettah does not take reservations since it is fast casual style. You order at the counter then seat yourself. Parties over 8 people can call ahead to have tables arranged.

Does Mo Bettah offer online ordering?

Yes, you can order Mo Bettah pulehu chicken and more for takeout through their website or delivery apps like DoorDash. This is convenient but can impact the crispiness.

Is Mo Bettah’s pulehu chicken spicy?

No, it does not contain any spice heat. The teriyaki sauce has a sweet and salty flavor, not a spicy one. Those who like spicy food may add chili pepper water.

Does Mo Bettah use MSG in their pulehu chicken?

Mo Bettah states that they do not use MSG in any of their food items, including the marinade and teriyaki sauce for the pulehu chicken.


In conclusion, Mo Bettah’s pulehu chicken is a standout Hawaiian plate lunch item thanks to its 24-hour teriyaki marinade and open flame grilling method. The tender, juicy meat coated in a sweet and salty crust has garnered a loyal following. While not the most healthy or low-cost option, pulehu chicken is a tasty choice for a Hawaiian meal in Utah and the inland West. Trying this regional specialty can transport your tastebuds straight to the islands!

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